It’s pumpkin season, and there’s lots you can do in your backyard chicken coop this season to prepare for the cooler months ahead.
When the days get shorter, you might worry about flock’s health.
Although chickens weather winter pretty well in most locations (their feathers help!), just a few tweaks can mean an easier time when the mercury dips.
Don’t worry! They’ll likely be fine, especially if you’re prepared! Here’s what you can do to help them have a happy fall and winter!
Do a final deep clean before winter and ice sets in.
Don’t do it when the ground is frozen and you need 3 sets of gloves to stay warm.
If you live in a temperate area, now is still the time to deep clean your coop since shorter days mean less food, and pests such as mice might decide your coop looks like a cozy spot.
While we don’t use the deep litter method on our farm, there’s still time to decide if the deep litter method is for you.
In addition to sweeping out any old bedding, be sure to wash off any accumulated poop on or under roosting bars, and wipe down nesting boxes that might have bits of broken egg or feathers lodged in them.
If you have a wooden or cement floor, give it a good wash to reduce the chances of ammonia build up, which can effect your chickens’ lungs.
Double check windows/doors for tight seals
When the wind is howling and there’s freezing rain, those tight seals can mean the difference between life and death.
Just double check all your windows and doors seal well, and if not, fix it.
Offer your flock pumpkin and/or pumpkin seeds every week. They’ll love the treat, and it’s super healthy for them!
Pumpkin is full of vitamins and minerals, and chickens LOVE to peck at it.
The pumpkin seeds might (repeat, might) help your flock rid themselves of worms (studies are inconclusive, but it can’t hurt).
At the very least, they’ll provide a yummy distraction since bugs and leaves are dying off.
You can also make a pumpkin planter, and offer it to your flock when you're done with it. Just be sure not to paint it!
Speaking of pumpkins…...
Keep an eye on local super markets for pumpkin sales
This time of year, there’s lots of pumpkins to buy. Don’t pay retail - wait until they go on sale and stock up for your backyard chickens.
Most stores start to discount pumpkins well before October 31.
Pumpkins keep for a while, and stored in a cool, dry location, you can have healthy treats for your hens for the next month or two!
If you have chicks, double check your coop stays the right temperature at night.
The right temperature will depend on the age of your chicks - if they only have down or are partially feathered, they will need your help to stay warm.
If not, either fix it or come up with a plan to keep chicks warm enough until they’re fully feathered.
Remember that heat lamps get very hot and can cause a fire, so avoid them.
If your flock is fully feathered, and it’s very cold in your area (under -10), consider finding a way to bring the ambient temperature in the coop up to above freezing - that way they always have access to fresh water.
However, this isn’t strictly necessary, and you should never endanger the lives of your flock.
Hang some fall wreaths or add fall flowers to window boxes
Fall is all about color - and adding a wreath or flowers to your window boxes can brighten up your surroundings and help your flock feel pampered.
If your coop is painted, do a fresh coat before cool weather sets in so your coop looks bright and colorful when the leaves are gone.
Ditto above. When fall’s colors fade, you’ll be glad you made the extra effort to repaint your coop so it looks cheerful even when it’s grey outside.
Help molting hens or hens experiencing feather loss from roosters with a high protein diet.
Yep, every fall, some or all of your chickens will lose their feathers due to molt. It’s normal - and there’s something you can do to help regrow those feathers quickly!
Giving your flock a high protein diet will help them regrow their feathers.
Some high protein options include black soldier fly larvae or Fluffiest Feathers Ever! (28% protein), dried river shrimp, or brewer’s yeast - and chickens LOVE them!
Make a plan for how you’ll keep their water from freezing
It’s bound to happen if you live in a cool area - so now is the time to decide how you’ll prevent freezing, or at least keep fresh water consistently available.
Here's my best ideas for keeping your chickens' water from freezing.
Remember, what works in Southern Missouri likely won’t work in Northern Dakota or Alberta, right?
Spend more time with your flock - soon, the weather will be cold and you won’t want to be outside as much.
Nuff said. Here's a great treat you can make - it includes pumpkin seeds, sage, and more!
Add a light to your coop if you want eggs all winter.
As the days get shorter, your hens might stop laying. This is natural, but it’s okay to still want eggs all winter. If you do, then add a light to their coop.
If you don’t have power in your coop, you can use a solar generator or a battery powered light. The bulb should stay cool and be a daylight simulator. You can also use a timer to turn it automatically on and off.
Double check coop security - food is getting scarce for predators.
While predators might leave your fluffy butts alone during summer, as the days get shorter and food becomes more scarce, they might turn an eye to your chickens.
Now is the time to check that your coop is completely secure and make adjustments as needed.
Make sure all doors and windows latch tightly, and upgrade the wiring around your coop if necessary. You don’t want predators to get OVER your coop walls or UNDER them!
Head out to farmers markets and/or orchards.
You can usually purchase seconds (bruised or unattractive fruit that’s still fresh and edible) for pennies on the dollar. They still make great treats for your fluffy butts!
Some great ideas for fruit and veggies to feed backyard chickens are peaches (without the pits), apples (without the seeds), non-GMO corn, and leafy greens!
About the author: Maat van Uitert (pronounced May-aht van Eye-tert) is a backyard chicken expert and the founder of the popular website Pampered Chicken Mama, which reaches approximately 20 million readers every month across social media. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, ABC, and featured in and interviewed by Glamour, Prevention, Reader's Digest, and Women's Health. Maat lives on a small organic farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband and two special needs children.